As ambient noise levels of a crowded setting pick up, the voice of silently read literature must reach its way through the endless chatter to create a peaceful listening atmosphere that reflects back to the commanding presence of the storyteller.
Student writers involved in Zaum Eighteen, SSU’s literary magazine, gathered for a release party gala in Cotati’s Redwood Cafe to celebrate the talented authors and artists who contributed this year. Coordinated with the restaurant owners, Tuesday evening began with musical performances at 7 p.m., followed by special readings and concluding with a raffle.
Gillian Conoley is the faculty adviser of the student-run magazine and class, “English 368 - Small Press Editing: ZAUM.” She’s published seven books of poetry, and her newest work, “Peace,” was released with Omnidawn this month and featured on SSU’s website this week. Her work was recently included in W.W. Norton’s “Postmodern American Poetry.”
Conoley’s edited SSU’s nationally known literary magazine, Volt, for 20 years, which was named one of the top 50 in the country by Every Writer’s Resource last year alongside Harper’s and The New Yorker. The students do a majority of the work on Zaum, and she expressed how this edition stood out compared to past years.
“We got an office for the magazine; I think this is the third year we've had a real office. Before it was always held in a classroom,” said Conoley. “So now, the sense of it not being just a class, but being a workspace is great. [The students] come in and they work, and just have a strong bond and commitment to one another and to literary publishing.”
Contributor of Zaum Eighteen and first reader of the night, senior Brian Strauss, shared his two poems featured in the magazine titled “Touch” and “Hotel Cavalier.” In regard to the latter piece, Strauss described how he’s always tried to sustain a strong sense of narrative with a distinct aesthetic to attribute his interest in film.
Opening lines capture: “Take me / and I’m breathing like a dog / panting sweating brewing / up my own idea of how this goes / let’s have it filthy Darling, shall we?”
The name “Hotel Cavalier” is a derivative of a short film by Wes Anderson called “Hotel Chevalier,” and Strauss noted how the filmmaker had a monumental influence on his work and voice despite the differing mediums.
Poetry Editor Kelleher Winship approached the mic afterward to share her first contribution, “Laundry Lessons,” to which Strauss enjoyed because of the stunning sense of feminine sensuality evoked in it.
Winship’s words reveal: “She only did laundry on Thursdays / I watched her from behind the peeling picket fence / as she hummed and sung and hung cream sheets - / cotton capes that floated on the breeze / waiting for their superhero’s return.”
“[Kelleher] really seems to have total command of female sensuality and identity within that work. It’s an assertion of woman and I was glad to hear it read aloud,” said Strauss. “I also came to the reading because writing is very solitary, as professor [Sherril] Jaffe puts it, and it’s an opportunity to socialize with other writers in an otherwise solitary craft.”
After Winship’s second recital, “Bathing with Ghosts,” Managing Editor Inga Lynn delivered “Art Show” and “Arbitrary,” followed by a music performance of “Streetlight” by Joshua Gray.
Several works of writers unable to attend were also read. Entertainment finished with a reading of “Evidence” by Melia Pavloff and music by editorial staff member Aaron Studebaker.
Pavloff, who also performed musical numbers alongside pianist Stu Manzano to start the evening, was inspired by one of her favorite contemporary jazz artists, Gretchen Parlato, and her cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years.” As far as fellow readers at the event, Pavloff mentioned one in particular she really appreciated.
“I thought Inga’s delivery showed great humility, and her poetic observations were simply stunning,” said Pavloff. “I just really enjoyed her reading and interpretation.”
Junior Carly Perkins was the gala coordinator for Zaum Eighteen and helped put together the event with Senior Editor Hassey Gascar. At the end of the packed turnout, Perkins was thrilled for the staff’s ability to earn more money as opposed to spending a lot, with a large amount of thanks going toward the generous hosts at Redwood Cafe.
“I came one day and asked to talk to Michael [McCullaugh], who was really helpful and said he would love to do an event for free,” said Perkins. “The gala has been more formal in the past, but we really wanted to focus on the poetry and prose reading as the main event, and enjoyed the opportunity to showcase the talent of the various readers and musical performers.”
Zaum Eighteen was available to purchase at the gala for $5. To learn where to send a check or money order to get issues directly, visit zaumliterarymagazine.wordpress.com and go to the “Purchases” tab.
The magazine has won top student literary awards from Associated Writing Programs in categories of editorial vision (1996) and graphic design (1998). It’s distributed throughout the Bay Area and around the country, and any student at a university can send their work to Zaum.